Melbourne Cricket Ground, 90,000 Fans And A Virat Kohli Spectacle!
The stage was set for Kohli, come October 23, in the high-voltage match against Pakistan, jam-packed Melbourne Cricket Ground and 90,000 fans in attendance. Kohli could not have asked for anything better.
Over the course of his 14-year-long career, Virat Kohli has created a reputation for himself for being able to find his best when the going gets tough during a run-chase. Ever since November 2019, Kohli saw a dip in form. However, it needs to be said that the right-handed maverick batter was still scoring runs, it was just a case of 100s not coming. Such is the standard and benchmark of Kohli the batter, that even consistent scores of 70-80 runs were not enough for fans.
However, the ongoing year - 2022 has been a roller-coaster ride for Kohli. Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 witnessed Kohli really struggling to middle the ball, and in 16 matches, the former India skipper managed just 341 runs at an average of 22.73 and strike rate of 115.99. In the subsequent T20I series against England, Kohli looked completely out of sorts and with Deepak Hooda registering a ton against Ireland while batting at No.3, there were calls for Kohli not being the right fit for the T20 World Cup. Yes, you read that right.
What followed was Kohli deciding to skip the T20I series against West Indies and then the ODI series against Zimbabwe. His decision to rest was met with lukewarm response, with some former players asking him to play when his form hasn't been great.
However, the batter turned his fortunes around in Asia Cup 2022 and the tournament saw Kohli registering his first T20I ton. He brought up his 71st international century against Afghanistan and he marked his return in true emphatic style which Kohli has been famous for.
The stage was set for Kohli, come October 23, in the high-voltage match against Pakistan, jam-packed Melbourne Cricket Ground and 90,000 fans in attendance. Kohli could not have asked for anything better. It was a run-chase, the side needed 160 to win and the Men in Blue were in trouble at 31/4 in the 7th over.
Kohli was struggling to middle the ball against the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah. The batter was on 12 off 21 balls and with his own admission, he thought that he has "messed up" the chase. "All these things look great at the end (laughs). To be honest, when I was 12 off 21, I was like, I'm really messing this game up, not pulling the ball in the gaps. But then when you have experience then you understand the value of batting deep. That's always been my role playing for India, to bat 16-17 overs. Because I know that I can do a lot of the power-hitting towards the latter half of the innings," Kohli told broadcaster Star Sports after the match against Pakistan.
"And that's always been my strength. I can strike at 250-300 as well, when I become really confident and there's only one guy under pressure and that's the bowler. So, I always try to get to that situation, where I'm not feeling any pressure. I'm not saying I didn't feel any pressure today, but then you give us a platform to then say you know what, it's their game to lose now. And it was almost their game to lose. We were just swinging through the line of the ball and we knew when Nawaz bowled that no-ball as well, I knew it and with the keeper standing back there. It was looking like, you know, this is our moment. And we need to capitalise," he stated further.
All Kohli needed was an able partner at the other end, who dispatches the loose deliveries for boundaries. Hardik Pandya was the man for the job, and he did the needful as Kohli got into the groove by running quick ones and twos. Then came a time, when Hardik started finding it tough to middle the ball. It was then, that Kohli channeled his inner "chase-master".
If one needs to know what kind of talent Kohli has, you just need to see the two sixes he hit off the bowling of Haris Rauf in the 19th over. The equation was 28 off 8 balls and it seemed the match is out of India's grasp. Kohli, then came out with possibly the shot of the tournament, hitting a slower ball for a backfoot six over long-on. The next ball also went for a six and in the final over, India needed 16.
In the final over, Hardik Pandya perished, and India needed 13 runs off 3. And it was clear that if Rohit Sharma & Co. want to get over the line, Kohli has to be the one to take the team over the line. And this is exactly what happened as he hit Mohammad Nawaz for a six on the fourth ball. What followed was a comedy of errors as Nawaz lost the plot, bowling no-balls and wide, and in the end, Kohli scripted a famous win. In the end, the batter remained unbeaten on 82 off just 53 balls.
So, it is no surprise that Kohli has now termed this knock as his finest in the shortest format of the game. "Till today I have always said Mohali was my best innings, against Australia: I got 82 off 52 (51). Today I got 82 off 53. So, they are exactly the same innings, but I think today I will count this one higher because of the magnitude of the game and what the situation was," said Kohli.